book review · book talk · new adult

Book Review: A Thousand Letters by Staci Hart

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  • A Thousand Letters by Staci Hart
  • New Adult Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Re-telling, Chick-lit
  • My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (2.5)

There is no length to love; it’s infinite. It lives in you always. Hold on to it.

A Thousand Letters is inspired by Jane Austen’s PersuasionFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is a YA dystopian/sci-fi re-telling of the same story which I adored and is the reason I wanted to read this book.

To be completely honest, I haven’t really read any of Jane Austen’s work because for whatever reason, I was never required to in any of my AP English and Lit courses. Over the years, I’ve just sort of Wiki’d any popular or classic works that I didn’t actually read. From what I’ve learned and heard about Austen’s work and her era, I already sort of had an idea of what her writing style would be like.

The gist of Persuasion is that there’s a guy and a girl who were engaged, separated and end up reuniting years later. The reasons for separation vary in re-tellings, but there’s typically some “misunderstanding” which results in serious tension between the pair. In the original story and in FDSTS, the girl breaks off the engagement and is sort of-kind of the case here too.

A Thousand Letters is told in alternating perspectives – Elliot and Wade. The two met and fell in love when they were teenagers. The two planned on getting married as soon as Elliot graduated from high school, but due to his impending entry into the army, Wade wanted to get married sooner. Misunderstandings ensued which resulted in Elliot and Wade bitterly saying goodbye to one another. While he’s deployed, Elliot writes him letters which he never answers and so she gives up. 7 years later, Wade’s father (and Elliot’s mentor) is dying and the pair are forced to reunite.

I think what makes adapting classics – like those written by Austen – into contemporary retellings so challenging is that the modern versions tend to come off as over-dramatic or overly-sexualized. Society viewed love and sex so differently in the past, so translating it genuinely into a contemporary setting may not bode well with some readers.

I understood this fact as I was reading this book (or ebook, I should say) when I realized that the characters constantly focused on their internal pain and emotional turmoil during the entirety of the story. At first, it seemed really annoying to be in their heads all the time and the characters barely even said a word to one another until halfway through the book. But in a classic story like Persuasion, this is exactly what the characters would do because declarations of love back then were not necessarily told in so many words as they were through the briefest of glances or the gentlest of touches. In older stories of love, the romance, when spoken, was like poetry – well-thought out, with only the most eloquent and necessary words chosen.

So, even though it did seem over the top and almost too angsty, I’m glad the author sort of kept this concept of love in her story (although, there’s a raunchy scene or two which is definitely a modern-day thing).

I had two problems with this book. The first issue I had is that our main girl, Elliot, is a total doormat and whenever someone calls her out on it, she actually justifies it with her own ridiculous reasoning. Her dad is a judgmental jerk who will take advantage of every opportunity he has to insult her choices in life, while her sister is a demanding b*tch who can’t make her own family dinner, let alone care for her kids whom Elliot adores. Elliot’s reasoning for bearing her family’s abuse is that she can take care of herself (yeah, okay) and that arguing with them is useless because they won’t change… Seriously? She actually thinks that she’s the “bigger person” by showing gratitude to her family for “taking care of her” and gives into their demands. She thinks that giving up and refusing to fight back is her way of being strong. I will say that she finally does grow a pair later, but I couldn’t believe she actually tried to convince other people that she wasn’t being pushed around by her family on a daily basis. Also, Elliot is sort of a bum…I don’t have a problem with her being a live-in nanny for her sister, but she claims to be an aspiring writer (and has the degree to prove it) who doesn’t even have the balls to share her writing with ANYONE, let alone a publisher.

The other issue I had with this book is that the fault for the misunderstanding and tension between Wade and Elliot is one-sided – meaning it’s obvious who you can blame for their separation in the first place. In a story like this, you’d expect that both parties screwed up and have to realize their mistakes independently before resolving them together. But in this story…both people blame themselves completely for most of the book, but in reality, it was the stupidity of just one of them that led to their separation. I think the issue here may have made sense in the past like in Austen’s time, but in a modern setting it just made a certain person look like an idiot (and boy do they know it).

Verdict: Overall, pretty good story. If you like classic-inspired love stories that have a major in angst and a minor in sexual attraction, this might be a good one for you. I would actually go back and read some of my favorite parts of this.

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